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EDITORIAL: Governing in dark without consensus

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Governing in dark without consensus

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Last week, delegates from governments and multilateral institutions, covering around a third of the world’s population together with civil society, youth and private sector representatives, gathered in London for the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Summit.
More than 1 000 delegates from 73 countries attended the conference to share their experiences, discuss progress and show how openness and transparency are making a difference to their citizens.
Open government and tranparency are as much part of democracy as free and fair elections. We mention this in light of the recent revelations on the tax concessions to the Sandals group of companies by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.
We agree that significant benefits could accrue to the country from the Sandals brand here. However, something seems amiss that every time a foreign investor wants to do business in Barbados, enormous concessions have to be granted to attract them.
This situation seems to suggest that the tax burden is much too heavy to make investments viable and the impositions are not attractive to foreign investors.
The question is, what about the local investors? Are they not important enough to the local economy to attract this type of corporate welfare in order to make an impact on the employment levels?
It is time to level the playing field and reduce taxes across the board so that all who want to invest can do so. In recent times, foreign investors in the retail trade who devour our now scarce foreign exchange were also given vast concesssions with negligible benefit to the local economy.
The recent concessions take the cake, however . We have to ask: is this for real . . . really? Almost two generations tax-free! Thereafter 50 per cent tax breaks for another 15 years! People now 40 years old will be approaching retirement and this company would have paid very little tax.
Given the track record of foreign investors, it would not be surprising if within 20 years some issues are found and by year 25, calls will be made to renege or renegotiate the agreement in order to avoid the tax ramifications.
We can only hope there is some airtight guarantee to airlift holidaymakers to Sandals Barbados. There must be some long-term planning, but we still have to ask: what’s in it for Government and the people of Barbados – apart from taxes on earning and spending by the workers?
Times are hard but are we that desperate (40 years almost tax-free?!)? Many callers on the call-in programme Brass Tacks wondered about the conditions for the prospective workers and the providers of goods and supplies.
The OGP summit focused on five key areas, including fiscal transparency: joining a new global standard in the automatic exchange of information to ensure taxpayers can follow their money.
Government must be aware that though we might all flock to support them, we are not all sheep.